The hugs seemed to last a little longer and the initially tentative smiles gave way to larger grins as the Montecito community turned out in force Saturday for the Cash Mob on Coast Village Road.
The event, sponsored by the Coast Village Association, helped lift the spirits and boost the challenged bottom lines of the street’s businesses, which took a big financial hit from the Thomas Fire and the Montecito flash flooding and mud flows.
Visiting my favorite shops with my BFF, once taken-for-granted common stops in my daily life as a 93108 resident, was a great escape from the heaviness that has hung over our community.
Despite the damp and gloomy weather, it also was a much-needed respite from dust, dump trucks, and sad and gut-wrenching stories that have been so much of our lives for the last two months.
As I would encounter a familiar face of someone I had lost sight of since the Thomas Fire evacuation in December that segued into the Jan. 9 disaster, the first question inevitably was, “Are you OK?” Some were and some were not, but all were trying hard to be grateful to be alive.
We talked about rental properties they now inhabited and we paid homage to our lost friends, like Rebecca Riskin, whose real estate office at Village Properties is located on Coast Village Road and now displays a prominent tribute to her.
While social media have given me a sketchy road map of some people’s lives during the chaos, there is no substitute for that in-person touchy-feely moment that felt like the best reunion ever!
Droves of people, of all ages, were walking in and out of retail stores and restaurants carrying shopping bags.
Outside Nurture Cottage, two adorable ambassadors — Lillie Copus, whose family owns and operates the Montecito Inn, and Stella Frank, daughter of K. Frank retailers Katie and Kevin Frank — handed out free lemonade and cookies.
Margerum Rosé and nonalcoholic beverages were on tap at Los Arroyos, and fresh fruit and cheese were offered at Cos Bar, where I also picked up a new spring coral lipstick to brighten my up-and-down moods.
The foot traffic was akin to CVR’s other community favorite, the annual Ghost Village Road walk at Halloween. The Cash Mob turned out to be a spirited shop-a-thon even if you needed nothing at all. It felt good to be a part of the community recovery efforts.
Other members of the extended Copus family and their friends were on the corner of Coast Village Road and Coast Village Circle selling merchandise with the Montecito Inn’s signature logo on it.
Danny Copus, the hotel’s general manager, was ever encouraging and optimistic, telling Noozhawk that they hope to reopen in about three weeks. Although the hotel was not structurally damaged, ground-floor carpet had to be replaced, mud had to be cleaned up and the exterior walls must be repainted.
“The outside really took the brunt of the disaster,” he said.
Jeannine’s Restaurant & Bakery, a favorite local hub, was again buzzing with happy customers holding the familiar blue to-go coffee cups. The entire Hardey family was on hand to greet customers. Even during the long closure of Coast Village Road, Alison Hardey provided coffee, cookies and scones from her Santa Barbara restaurants so locals would have a place to congregate and share information.
An extra no-calorie treat at Jeannine’s was a donation from Ty Warner, owner of the heavily damaged and still-closed Four Seasons Resort-The Biltmore Santa Barbara and San Ysidro Ranch, as well as Ty Inc., the maker of Beanie Babies. He manufactured a limited new plush Beanie Baby “comfort” dog named Cito, who, appropriately has a birth date of Jan. 9.
Cito’s nametag inscription reads:
“If there is a fire or flood
Even if there’s a lot of mud
I will help you find the way
If you are hurting or gone astray.”
— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.